US dismantling Ecuador base for move to Colombia

July 18th, 2009 - 4:42 am ICT by IANS  

Quito/Bogota, July 18 (DPA) The US military has begun to dismantle its anti-drug-and-terrorism operations and its base in Manta, Ecuador, as its aircraft flew their last missions on Friday, the US embassy said.
The equipment and planes appear headed to Colombia, which is negotiating with the US to take them in after Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa refused to extend the contract that ends in September.

The US has maintained the base since 1999 as a central observation point to battle narco-trafficking.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Thursday defended negotiations that would allow the US use of three military bases in Colombia in the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism.

The proposed deal has sparked controversy in Colombia, although the government stressed this week that it did not imply the installation of US military bases on its soil or that Colombia would be used by Washington as a platform for potential attacks in the region.

The opposition views the deal as a violation of Colombian sovereignty and criticized the government for not running the plan past Congress.

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